Rain fell outside, relief after a long, dusty summer. Inside, steam fogged the windows as a pot on the stove bubbled amber liquid. Remus was at the counter with a cutting board and a good knife, chopping his way through root vegetables. The kitchen was half-lit, the muggle electrics turned off and just a golden witch-light floating near the low ceiling. Sirius dozed at the table, tea cold and forgotten in front of him, their bedsheet gathered around his shoulders, the ends clutchedin a fist, the slight rattle of his breathing audible counterpoint to the movements of Remus' knife.
The undersides of the leaves were emerald and gold in the filtered sunlight, and the shadows they cast on the ground, and on the two figures underneath them, danced with every breath of wind. They lay tangled together, like the branches above them, arms and legs, hands and hair, for an hour a single being, one moving only to bring the other closer. Lips red and kiss-swollen, bodies warmed and sated, content simply for the tactile comfort of a lover gathered close. Somewhere, far away but much too close, life continued, grand and terrible, but it was not too urgent to be ignored.
It was quiet in London-- the night owls just crawling into bed and the early bird's alarms not yet ringing. It was early February, the city cold and slushy, and they were standing under the orange sodium glare of a street light, Sirius leant up against the pole, his shoulders hunched, too-large jacket buttoned to his chin. Remus brushed against his arm, and was rewarded with Sirius's smile. Impulsively, he brought their lips together, the brush of their noses icy, but mouths warm. Sirus' laugh bubbled up through it, and Remus withdrew, grinning back. Behind them, the bakery lights switched on.
Remus traces a careful finger over the blue vein just visible under Sirius’ pale skin. Traces it down from the curve of his mouth to the tip of his chin and the arch of his neck, follows it until it disappears under the sharp bone ofSirius’clavicle. He dips down to place a kiss there, warm and slow and lingering; he tastes salt and the sharp tang of mint. He moves his hand, just fractionally, so his first two fingers find that lace pattern of blue once more and he can feel the drumbeat of Sirius’ pulse. He smiles.
Light shines in through the window, making the common room a riot of colour. The sky is perfect and blue, whispy cirrus clouds scudding across its expanse; it is the first advance of spring, and slick looking icicles supply a constant symphony of drips. The hour is early, and the room is quiet. Two boys doze before the fire. Evidence of their night is scattered in the space before them: a book, worn and well-loved, a broken pile of glass, and a handkerchief, spotted with blood. Even as they sleep, eyes fluttering behind closed lids, their hands find the others’.
Sirius cradled the bundle of blankets in his arms with awkward inexperience. James laughed, head thrown back, body shaking, conveniently forgetting that he had worn the exact same expression not two days ago. Cautiously he reached out a finger, marvelling at miniscule eyelashes, tiny fingernails. He looked up at Lily, something deeply impressed and awe-filled in his expression,“This was inside you.” This time it’s Remus who laughs, full throated, deep, the laugh that makes Sirius beam at him in turn. They look at each other like that, both grinning stupidly over this shining miracle in such a tarnished time.
The air was crisp, and leaves crunched under their feet as the two boys walked around the lake. The sun was just sinking behind the horizon, the rosy orange sky streaked with inky purple clouds. A scarlet scarf was slung carelessly aroundthe shorterboys neck, contrasting vividly to the darkness of his hair and clothing, the paleness of his skin and eyes. The taller boy, by perhaps two inches, wore a brownish sweater and brownish pants; his brownish hair was a few shades darker, his brownish eyes a few lighter. They walked along the lakeside, holding hands and smiling.
Remus' fist connected with flesh, hard. "What," someone whispered; James, probably, since Sirius was launching himself at Remus, features hard with rage. Sirius struck him, fist connecting solidly with Remus' stomach; he fell, retching, to the ground, lungs expelling air. He rolled, springing to his feet, fighting to breathe. They watched each other warily, Sirius' nose bleeding. Remuscrouched and, with a burst of speed and strength lunged at Sirius, bringing him down hard on his back, Remus straddling his waist, ready to punch again when an invisible hand grabbed his shirt, pinning them to opposite walls.
It was bitter cold and Remus wasn't sure what he was doing on top of Gryffindor Tower at two in the morning, except that Sirius' hand was warm and he would do anything for that stupid grin. The moon was the barest sliver in the sky, more than halfway through its nightly journey, and the stars glowed brighter in the absence of its reflected light. Trees were spidery shadows in the distance, all but the most hardy having given up their leaves, the lake a solid blackness, not even the lapping of the waters reached their ears, suspended high above the ground.
Remus discovered Sirius crying quite by accident. He'd come up to the dorm before dinner ended, more tired than hungry, and was shocked to hear someones choking sobs in the corner, shocked to see it was Sirius. He had looked up at him, face white and fierce and angry, eyes over-bright and cheeks wet. He'd stared defiantly at Remus, tears shining in his eyelashes. Remus dared not soften his gaze;he nodded, instead, frowning, and when Sirius didn't move to hex him he slid carefully down next to his friend, taking the boy's hand in his and not making a sound.
“Remus!“ The boy whirls around, stopping abruptly, eyes half-crazed, wild, hair fanning out in a kind of messy gold halo, backlit by the warm glow of a nearby torch. Sirius nearly collides with him, not realizing he’s running full-tilt after a stationary object until he’s sprawled on the floor, Remus having stepped away at the last second. He looks down at the boy, Sirius’ hair is sticky where the combination of momentum and the uneven floor have rendered an impressive cut and he’s panting from the exertion.
Remus frowns, “You’re bleeding.” And walks away, absently touching his still kiss-bruised lips.
Being back in Hogwarts is agony. Watching the students mill about the Great Hall, he can almost believe it’s another time, that a handsome boy in mussed robes will throw open the doors and half run to his messy haired friend at Gryffindor table, the story for his tardiness already tripping off his lips, that the shock of red hair belongs to a different girl, someone with green eyes and a smile like sunbeams. He wishes that, in this past, he wasn’t there, so he might not still feel the searing warmth of an arm, casually slung about his shoulders.
Remus pushes Sirius into the cellar. He’s been planning this all night, waiting patiently through the meeting, through dinner and cleanup, and while the rest of the Order slipped out into the night he watched Sirius pace, agitated, for a few short minutes before springing on him, pinning him against the wall and then scrambling for the latch on the door. He pulls away as he locks the door behind them, then turns back to Sirius, already panting, eyes already dilated. He growls and drags him down the steps, eyes flecked amber and gold with the swelling of the moon.
“M’drunk.” He says with something like surprise, squinting his eyes and staring suspiciously up at Sirius. “Wh’m I drunk?”
Sirius cackles, arm around his friend, leading him upstairs. “Wouldn’t be the alcohol, would it?”
Remus frowns and closes his eyes, trying to remember his evening, “Din’nt have much. ‘Sides.” He jabs his thumb into his chest and stumbles over the threshold of their dormitory, “Werewolf.” Sirius is looking like the cat who got the cream and this registers somewhere in the fogginess of Remus’ mind. His eyes narrow, “You did something.”
“Nonsense,” insists Sirius with aggravating sobriety. “You just had fun.”
Mice and men, he thought vaguely and wondered if he could explain this without sounding crazy, or worse, like a traitor. He knew what they would ask: How could he do this? He didn’t, he thought viciously, still pacing in the corridor. “I was protecting Remus.” Snape was going to go shout werewolf from the theoretical rooftops and then he made sure he wouldn‘t. He wasn’t going to die, the prat, just get scared enough to keep his bloody mouth shut. He looked at the door, turned up his nose, and walked away. He had nothing to apologize for.